WITH LIGHT RAIN FALLING, dozens of black models walked the grounds of Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn on Saturday night. A 40-person gospel choir wearing flowing white robes and Reebok tennis shoes sang live during the 23-minute runway show. Outfitted in fabrics with painterly images of African Americans, the models paraded by with purpose and ease as spectators, umbrellas held aloft, looked on with an appreciation for the cultural cues and an affinity for the clothes.
Pyer Moss staged the show, presenting its spring/summer 2019 collection at the historic site where one of America’s first free black communities was established in 1838. The New York-based label founded by Kerby Jean-Raymond in 2013 designs men’s and women’s ready-to-wear.
The runway looks included collaborations with artist Derrick Adams and FUBU, the 1990s brand with the “For Us By Us” mantra. A female model paired a red quilted wrap skirt with a shirt that read “Stop Calling 911 On The Culture.” A male model accessorized an elegant white button down shirt and silk trousers with a cummerbund that asked “See Us Now?”
Artists, filmmakers, and musicians, have long been utilizing their crafts to express their political views, embrace their culture, and mine history to educate their audiences. High-end fashion designers? Not so much. Pyer Moss is changing that narrative.
Jean-Raymond considers Pyer Moss to be an “art project” or “a timely social experiment.” On its website, the brand declares its intention is “to use its voice and platform to challenge social narratives and evoke dialogue.” Its vision is ever-evolving. The statement goes on to say, “Pyer Moss continues to redefine itself every season with collections and runways that combine storytelling, activism, debate, theatre and social commentary; all while using collaboration with artists and brands as a medium to further the dialogue around seasonal themes.”
“Pyer Moss continues to redefine itself every season with collections and runways that combine storytelling, activism, debate, theatre and social commentary; all while using collaboration with artists and brands as a medium to further the dialogue around seasonal themes.”
The collection includes a shirt that reads “Stop Calling 911 On The Culture,” left, a reference to the indignities of being black when barbecuing, selling lemonade, or napping in a university lounge, for example, prompts a call to the police. | via Pyer Moss (3)
Pyer Moss collaborated with the brand FUBU (“For Us, By Us”). | Photo by Angela Weiss/AFP, Getty Images
The designer’s highest profile collaboration is with Reebok. Looks from the Reebok by Pyer Moss 2 collection were on the runway at Weeksville and the latest shoes—Pyer Moss x Reebok DMX Fusion Experiment—are already sold out.
Last week, the affiliation factored in a flap on Twitter. When Nike announced Colin Kaepernick would be among the athletes featured in its 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign, detractors took to social media posting videos of themselves burning Nikes and cutting the brand’s swoosh logo out of their socks.
John Rich from the country music duo Big & Rich chimed in, deriding the decision and tweeting “Reebock here we come.” Jean-Raymond retweeted an article about Rich’s comment, adding “No, we’re good. Go to New Balance.” The designer is serious apparently about using the voice and platform of Pyer Moss to “challenge social narratives and evoke dialogue.”
Ultimately, the activism, artistry, and love for black people, is all confidently channeled into the clothes. The spring/summer 2019 collection blends art and politics, emphasizes the importance of being seen, and raises the indignities of being black when barbecuing, selling lemonade, or napping in a university lounge, for example, prompts a call to the police.
The socially aware themes are powerful, and yet, the designs don’t suffer under the weight of the message. The clothes are beautiful and wearable, with incredible color and imaginative silhouettes.
In the lead up to New York Fashion Week, Jean-Raymond welcomed Vogue’s Anna Wintour and Virginia Smith to his studio to preview the new collection. For the visit, he wore a Pyer Moss shirt that was among the pieces featured in the runway show. In big bold letters across the back, the shirt read: “If you are just learning about Pyer Moss we forgive you.” CT
TOP IMAGE: Designed in collaboration with artist Derrick Adams, a number of men’s and women’s looks in the Pyer Moss spring/summer 2018 collection feature painterly images of African Americans. | Photo by Angela Weiss/AFP, Getty Images
The Pyer Moss SS19 Runway Show was presented Sept. 8, 2018 at Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn. | Video by Pyer Moss
A number of attributes thread throughout the collection, including vibrant color, loose and fluid silhouettes, and painterly images by artist Derrick Adams. | via Pyer Moss (3)
A few of the looks were emblazoned with text-based socio-political messages such as “See Us Now?” Others featured the brand’s name. | Photo by Angela Weiss/AFP, Getty Images
The men’s and women’s looks in the collection feature vibrant colors and imaginative, yet wearable silhouettes. | via Pyer Moss (3)
The show included looks from a collaboration with FUBU. | Photo by Angela Weiss/AFP, Getty Images
The art-inspired collection features a collaboration with artist Derrick Adams and a color-block fabric in a limited palette similar to the one artist Jacob Lawrence used, at right. | via Pyer Moss (3)
The view before the Pyer Moss spring/summer 2019 runway show, which was held Sept. 8, 2018, on the grounds of Weeksville Heritage Center, a historic site that is part of the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant. | Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris, Getty Images
FUBU by Pyer Moss logos and flowing silhouettes are among the hallmarks of the spring/summer 2019 collection. | Photo by Angela Weiss/AFP, Getty Images
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